Homestead Review: Tools & Features (3.5 stars)
- Photo album
- Mailing list
- Recommend Site
- Polling Booth
- Blog link-up
- Last Updated
- Chat room
- Online forms
- Simple calendar
- Site Statistics
- Sound file upload
- Video file upload
- Visitor counter
- Add to favorite link
- Time & date icon
- Weather icon
Lots of Features but Lacks Business Application
When using Homestead's downloadable website builder, you have a wide variety of features that aren't designed with the business website creator in mind. While it has most of the standard features offered by website builders and even a few extras, it is more suitable for personal website use. For example, you can put up a simple calendar icon displaying a date, but there is no event calendar that allows you to show a business's upcoming events. They also have a visitor chat room but no message board, which would have greater value for business websites.
Online Forms Would Be Better With a Quick Page Set-Up
The online form is an important tool for business websites. They allow you to receive customer inquiries and collect customer feedback. For the business user, it would be ideal to have a quick page set up in which you just pick out your fields and type in the associated text. With Homestead though, you have to create each individual field as well as the text boxes associated with those fields. This can be time consuming.
Look good? It better! It took us nearly 45 minutes to make.
Mailing List Not Great for Business but Other Communications Tools Handy
The Homestead mailing list system is good for anyone who just wants to have a simple mailing list as opposed to a business newsletter. So what's the difference? A business newsletter tool might have anti-spam measures to ensure that your subscribers feel confident you won't spam them. A website newsletter can also benefit from simultaneous publication on your website. Homestead's mailing list lacks these functions.
Homestead does have other useful tools that are easy to stick on a page. The Guestbook, Tell a Friend and Add to Favorites, are sharp little features that add professionalism. The Web Poll is also handy, easy to use, and looks good on any page. And even though the chat room is quite simplistic, it's a nice touch for those who want it.
We were impressed at first when we saw the option to add a blog. Unfortunately, Homestead doesn't have a blog service rather it provides an RSS (Registered Subscription Service) feed into which you can link to a blog that you have already set up somewhere else. While other website builders also have the ability to set up an RSS feed, Homestead has a quick set-up feature intended for bloggers.
Photo Album Not a Business Tool
Homestead's photo album produces a cute little frame that allows visitors to quickly click through the images uploaded into it. While it looks nice, it doesn't really address the needs that businesses have in photo albums. For example, a professional gardener might want to use a photo album to show his or her portfolio. Usually they would want to post a description to accompany the photo as well. This photo album can't do that. The only alternative is to manually upload each image and manually create each text box, but again, there is no quick set-up for something like this.
Photo Album â€“ Cute But Not That Useful
Access Your Domain Name Email Address from the Web
In many cases, you can only set up your domain name's email address (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org) to be accessed through MS Outlook. This means that you have to be at your own computer to access your email. Homestead has it set up so you can check your email through the Web - an important feature for people on the go.
Lots of Cool Little Features that Add Polish
While some of the main features are lacking business application, there are a lot of little tools that can give your website a polished look. You can instantly add different kinds of search boxes, including Google, Google Groups, Amazon, eBay, Ask Jeeves, and CBS Marketwatch. There are also some handy info tools you can plunk down anywhere like a visitor hit counter, time and date, calendar, weather report, and last updated date. These aren't a major selling point, but they do serve to make your website look more professional.
These features add polish to your pages.
The MapQuest features, on the other hand, are actually quite useful. The map feature automatically generates a map of your location, which can look really sharp on your contact page. You can also add a driving directions search box courtesy of MapQuest. These features only work if you have an American address though.
Homestead's Site Statistics Give Useful Marketing Info
By integrating with RealTracker, Homestead provides website traffic info that can help you with your website marketing. They tell you the geographic locations of your visitors, where your visitors are referred from, what content they looked at, and more. This helps you understand your Internet market better.
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